Comment by AndyCossyleon on Shut up and do the impossible! · 2013-08-06T00:43:45.525Z · LW · GW


Comment by AndyCossyleon on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-02T21:23:42.177Z · LW · GW

I think an obvious difference between the last one and the first two is that the last one includes a number. There is no uncertainty when comparing numbers, no wriggle room for subjectivity. A real number is either smaller, bigger, or equal to another real number. Period. This rigidity does not mesh well with the flexibility that comfortable social interaction requires. I don't think this is the only reason why the third is so inappropriate, but it definitely contributes.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Reason as memetic immune disorder · 2013-06-25T00:09:46.733Z · LW · GW

And this is all that people mean when they say that Race is a social concept, not a genetic one.

That is what some people mean. Others truly believe there are literally no differences between human populations apart from skin color and bone structure, and of course culture.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-30T21:47:13.003Z · LW · GW

Perhaps HFCS in particular encourages LPS bacteria. Or perhaps LPS bacteria particularly stimulates thirst for sweet liquids. It's impossible to know without (preferably both of) historical LPS and a controlled experiment. Also, your link does not establish a causal link between sugary drink consumption and obesity, merely that they've been correlated for a few decades.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-21T21:17:05.459Z · LW · GW

Perhaps the presence of LPS bacteria and the corresponding immune response provoke a larger appetite.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Closet survey #1 · 2013-04-10T01:51:29.215Z · LW · GW

From your other comments, I believe you're confusing "I don't believe men who say they are bisexual" with "I don't believe men can be bisexual."

It's clear to me that, in American society at least, the majority of bisexual men are to be found among the ranks of men who would never identify as anything but straight, sometimes even to the men they have sex with(!). Conversely, many of the men that DO identify as bisexual are merely finding a graceful way to transition to a homosexual love life.

Thus, that a man who identifies as bisexual is mostly likely gay may be true (though I doubt it--especially among men who have been out as bisexual for more than, say, 5 years) is not an indication that male bisexuality doesn't exist--only that self-professed bisexuality is scantily coterminous with a bisexual orientation in males.

Being wrong in the way that you are wrong will probably not damage the accuracy of your insight when conversing with individuals about their sexuality (you'll correctly assign a high probability to his being gay if he says he's bisexual), but it probably WILL damage that accuracy when analyzing human populations in the abstract (you'll incorrectly assign a low probability to the existence of large ranks of males who engage in and enjoy sexual relations with both men and women).

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided · 2012-09-27T22:19:12.660Z · LW · GW

AlexSchell, "scant" is essentially a negative, much like "scarce(ly)" or "hardly" or "negligible/y". Rewriting: "The decriminalization of drugs in Portugal has scarcely seen an increase in drug use." I'd argue that these sentences mean the same thing, and that together, they mean something different from "The decriminalization ... has seen a small increase ..." which is what you seem to have interpreted my statement as, though not completely illegitimately.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Artificial Addition · 2012-07-11T20:06:53.616Z · LW · GW

Intelligence is a multidimensional concept that is not amenable to any single definition or quantization. Take for instance the idea of "the size of a tree." Size could mean height, drip radius, mass, volume of smallest convex polyhedron that contains the whole organism, volume of water displaced if the tree was immersed in a tank, trunk girth at 6 feet, etc. The tallest redwood is taller than the tallest sequoia, but isn't the sequoia bigger? Why is it bigger? Because it has greater mass? But what of the biggest banyan? It has a greater mass than both the redwood and the sequoia.

The problem with intelligence is not that it's not quantifiable, but that different researchers use different mapping functions all the while pretending they're measuring the exact same thing, heaping up the confusion. If you pick one specific mental activity (arithmetic, visual memory, music-compositional ability, language processing), it is rarely very difficult to measure and rank people by their adeptness. If, on the other hand, you try to come up with a "good" way to map many different intelligences together onto some scale, you're going to be terrible at using this scale to predict individual performance at specific tasks. Further, individuals with low IQ (or other attempted measure at general intelligence) may be brilliant at specific tasks because of their low IQ in that because much of their brain is dedicated to that task, they have little left over for anything else. This is especially true of many autistic individuals.

In the end, intelligence is rather easy to define if you recognize it as the multifaceted phenomena that it is.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Entangled Truths, Contagious Lies · 2012-07-11T16:46:21.006Z · LW · GW

I find it much more convenient to, instead of lying, simply using ambiguous phrases to plant the false idea into someone else's mind. The important part is to make the phrase ambiguous in such a way that it can be plausibly interpreted truthfully. Say you don't want someone to know you went up the stairs, then you say "I didn't walk up the stairs" because you in fact ran up the stairs. Even if your lie is found out, this reduces the social cost since, if you are political enough, you can convince others that you didn't actually lie. And if you are very good at it, you can tailor the deception so that only a minority of people (which includes the addressee) would interpret it falsely; and you can then let the majority construe it as misunderstanding on behalf of the deceived.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Problematic Problems for TDT · 2012-06-20T19:14:01.978Z · LW · GW

Perhaps referring directly to Goedel was not apt. What Goedel showed was that Hilbert/Russell's efforts were futile. And what Hilbert and Russell were trying to do was create a formal system where actual self-reference was impossible. And the reason he was trying to do that, finally, was that self-reference creates paradoxes which reduce to either incompleteness or inconsistency. And the same is true of these more advanced decision theories. Because they are self-referencing, they create an infinite regress that precludes the existence of a "best" decision theory at all.

So, finding a best decision theory is impossible once self-reference is allowed, because of the nature of self-reference, but not quite because of Goedel's theorems, which are the stronger declaration that any formal system by necessity contains self-referential aspects that make it incomplete or inconsistent.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Problematic Problems for TDT · 2012-05-23T20:39:08.007Z · LW · GW

Someone may already have mentioned this, but doesn't the fact that these scenarios include self-referencing components bring Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem into play somehow? I.e. As soon as we let decision theories become self-referencing, it is impossible for a "best" decision theory to exist at all.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-22T00:31:55.289Z · LW · GW

Yay free karma. Can I exchange the karma for a lunch?

Comment by AndyCossyleon on The Good News of Situationist Psychology · 2011-04-13T16:17:51.129Z · LW · GW

The drug addict doesn't want to change his disposition towards drug use; he wants to stop using drugs. Behavior begets character begets the person--lukeprog argues that you can change your behavior (and therefore yourself) by changing your situation.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on The Strong Occam's Razor · 2010-11-11T21:24:07.472Z · LW · GW

Doesn't the human inside qualify as an observer? For all we know, WE outside the box could be the ones tortured for 50 years and then incinerated once the button is pushed.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Wrong Questions · 2010-11-08T21:39:14.496Z · LW · GW

The state of affairs (not State of Affairs) wherein nothing exists cannot possibly by inconsistent, for it contains nothing. The question is, why this populated, consistent world (presumably it is not inconsistent) and not the other?

Perhaps this question is a wrong question because nothing, in fact, does exist. I'm envisioning something beyond the multiverse, alternate realities that are exactly that, other realities, totally disjoint from ours, inaccessible in every possible and impossible way. Like the universe under your fingernail... except it's not under your fingernail, it is Nowhere. Some of these realities are empty; nothing exists. But some, like ours, are not.

We talk of the origin of existence. What if it originated multiple times? Basically, let's assume the statements "nothing exists" and "something exists" are both true. Where does that take us?

These alternative realities do not exist, because they do not conform to our mode, our universe's (or multiverse's) mode of existence; but they conform to their own mode. Or do they? Nes or yo?

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Universal Law · 2010-11-08T21:09:49.247Z · LW · GW

Only 80%? I hope you've brushed up on your physics in the past three years.

The speed of light isn't some arbitrary speed limit. The speed of light is the speed of masslessness. Everything without mass (prime example: photons), must travel at that speed. Further, anything traveling at that speed does not witness the passage of time, experiencing the entirety of its trajectory at once.

Stated even better, everything travels at the speed of light; it is merely that massive particles divert most of that velocity into traveling through time. There is an intimate connection between spacetime and mass; note that no amount of electric charge bends spacetime.

The speed of light barrier exists absolutely with a probability easily exceeding 99%.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Universal Fire · 2010-11-08T17:28:58.687Z · LW · GW

My fundamentalist father has stated, albeit reservedly, that fire did not exist before the fall of Adam, for fire symbolizes judgment. My response: what is metabolism but controlled fire?

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Universal Fire · 2010-11-08T17:26:34.812Z · LW · GW

A very good point!

However, the God hypothesis allows for the coexistence of deep rules (a world in which conscious beings exist) and surface rules (a world in which tsunamis and earthquakes [do not] kill hundreds of thousands of them), so this "best" answer falls flat: theodicy still fails.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Universal Fire · 2010-11-08T17:20:17.268Z · LW · GW

The problem is this:

There are only two rules: quantum chromodynamics and universal gravitation, and hopefully they can be united into one. "[I]f you rewrote physics with added rules" is a non-starter.

It is actually quite astounding that so much physical behavior is allowed in such a paltry context. The things that do happen are in an extremely select set of events.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Newcomb's Problem and Regret of Rationality · 2010-11-04T21:52:07.807Z · LW · GW

A very good point. I'm the type to stay home from the polls. But I'd also one-box..... hm.

I think it may have to do with the very weak correlation between my choice to vote and the choice of those of a similar mind to me to vote as opposed to the very strong correlation between my choice to one-box and Omega's choice to put $1,000,000 in box B.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Newcomb's Problem and Regret of Rationality · 2010-11-04T21:19:02.452Z · LW · GW

Na-na-na-na-na-na, I am so sorry you only got $1000!

Me, I'm gonna replace my macbook pro, buy an apartment and a car and take a two week vacation in the Bahamas, and put the rest in savings!


Point: arguments don't matter, winning does.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on When None Dare Urge Restraint · 2010-11-04T18:45:56.068Z · LW · GW

Note: The idea that we all 'do our part' and so on is good propaganda but it appeals to a sort of collective action fallacy. The fallacy presents itself when someone says "If I do X it will not make a noticible difference, even though if many do X it will make a difference." and someone replies "But what if everyone thought that way?" Logically it's irrelevent what everyone might or might not do - expecially if the person that dissents is in no position to change many other peoples actions.

This is why I don't vote. The vote is very very likely not to make any difference in the outcome. Voting has value but only to people that don't know this or possibly people could signal something by voting even though they know its unlikely to be useful but as the polls are private they might as well just go in and throw the level randomly and walk out to social rewards...

Ah... some classmates and I were just having this discussion. I agree with you.... BUT DON'T POST IT ONLINE! By doing so, you enter into a "position to change many other peoples actions." Shame, shame.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on When None Dare Urge Restraint · 2010-11-04T18:27:49.240Z · LW · GW

A soward. yah, lame. >.>

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Correspondence Bias · 2010-11-04T18:12:58.971Z · LW · GW

Sam Harris does not believe in a god exterior to the human experience. This accords perfectly well to most definitions of "atheist." He thinks that religious experience is valid insofar as it is a psychological phenomenon and that in eliminating sentient humans and similar creatures, this experience, along with "God," would vanish from the universe.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on What is the group selection debate? · 2010-11-03T22:33:53.021Z · LW · GW

"Group" selection is fundamentally different when the genetic or reproductive prospects of that group lie in a small subset of itself. Any two members of a "group" like a gaggle* of geese can reproduce together, and even create a new group. HOWEVER, any two members of a "group" like a body or ant community cannot reproduce together and create a new group.

In the latter group, what is good for the gonads or good for the queen is good for group. In the former, that is absolutely not the case: every goose is an independent quonad. All the eggs are not in one basket and therefore natural selection, being the satisficer that it is (and not the optimizer) has no special object to take care of. Put all the eggs in one basket and what you get (aside from an ovary) is something that natural selection has preeminent power over. It cannot take care of the gaggle, only the goose.

Basically: you cannot generalize from cancer. Group selection in the gaggle sense has some merit, but that is all.

*Proviso: opposite sex


Comment by AndyCossyleon on Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided · 2010-11-03T22:08:57.839Z · LW · GW

Portugal, anyone? There is a point when arguments need to be abandoned and experimental results embraced. The decriminalization of drugs in Portugal has seen a scant increase in drug use. QED

The same goes for policies like Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Many countries around the world have run the experiment of letting gays serve openly and there have been no ill effects.

Abandon rationalization, embrace reality.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided · 2010-11-03T22:00:59.809Z · LW · GW

"whether Earthly life arose by natural selection" was a bad example of Eliezer's.

Natural selection does not account for how life arose, and dubitably accounts for how even the diversity of life arose*. Natural selection accounts, and only accounts, for how specified (esp. complex & specified) biological artifacts arose and are maintained.

An infinitely better example would have been "whether terrestrial life shares a common ancestor," because that is a demonstrable fact.

*This has probably mostly to do with plate tectonics carting around life forms from place to place and with genetic drift.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on More art, less stink: Taking the PU out of PUA · 2010-09-12T18:36:25.739Z · LW · GW

I was amused by the fact that "púa" is "guitar pick" in Spanish.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on More art, less stink: Taking the PU out of PUA · 2010-09-12T18:03:03.242Z · LW · GW

mattnewport -> mattnew port -> matthew port

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Avoiding Your Belief's Real Weak Points · 2010-09-08T14:31:49.779Z · LW · GW


This is how I felt as well, that my personal discovery of atheism was merely the next step in my life having been raised as a Christian. Losing religion and coming clean about it was the test of my integrity, which was formed under the wing of the Bible and Christianity.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Crisis of Faith · 2010-09-07T21:28:14.531Z · LW · GW

Daniel Everett was a missionary to the Piraha of Brazil and a husband and father.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Perpetual Motion Beliefs · 2010-08-26T19:47:36.482Z · LW · GW

Well the incarcerated* Kent Hovind did used to say that evolution is a religion. But I never heard him saying it was "just" a religion.

*HAD to include that

Comment by AndyCossyleon on GAZP vs. GLUT · 2010-08-26T19:18:15.901Z · LW · GW

Part of the brain's function is to provide output to itself. Consequently, even though I would be quite happy saying C-3PO is conscious, I wouldn't be so quick to say that about a GLUT.

Still, it seems remarkable to me that everyone is treating consciousness as an either/or. Homo sapiens gradually became conscious after species that weren't. Infants gradually become conscious after a fertilized egg that was not. Let us put essentialism to rest.

And as an aside, I would state roughly that an organism is conscious iff it has theory of mind. That is, consciousness is ToM applied to oneself.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Lights, Camera, Action! · 2010-08-26T18:46:59.047Z · LW · GW

Depends what I'm thinking about.

Sometimes, thinking is talking to myself or to somementalbody else. Sometimes, thinking is floating about somewhere experiencing it mostly visually. Sometimes, thinking is just living the moment. Sometimes, thinking is having mental fun, like rotating cubes in my head. Sometimes, thinking is just self-awareness, 'about' nothing.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Generalizing From One Example · 2010-08-25T17:28:41.550Z · LW · GW

Also, how does the capacity for eidetic imagery correlate with ability to count visual objects? I can't instantaneously count more than about six things (e.g. marbles) at once or up to a dozen or so depending how they're arranged. If you asked an eidetic imager to imagine a bar code, and then asked them how many lines there were, would they be able to respond quickly?

Eidetic imagery seems to be more a matter of degree. If asked to imagine a table, I can tell you instantly the number of chairs around it, but I would fail the tiger test. So perhaps passing the tiger test has more to do fast counting than vivid imagining.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Generalizing From One Example · 2010-08-25T17:19:01.094Z · LW · GW

If you know the derivative at 0 is 1, then you know the value of pi... just sayin'.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Think Like Reality · 2010-08-19T21:11:17.106Z · LW · GW

I think the real issue here is not that it is unacceptable to perceive real phenomena as weird or bizarre, but that it is unacceptable to think that something real ought not be so (based on some model of reality) and continue without updating the model or understanding why the weirdness or bizarreness leaks in.

To pick on C.S. Lewis and the religious in particular, Lewis conflates many times the Laws of Nature with the 'Laws' of Morality. Laws of nature cannot be broken; those of morality most definitely can be and are. And perhaps as another facet of the naturalistic fallacy, those who would conflate laws of morality (loosely speaking--anything which 'ought' to be) with laws of nature, may come across an exception to the laws of nature (their model thereof), and not flinch because they are used to the laws of morality, or that-which-ought-to-be, being breached. Laws cannot be broken, and when they appear to be, one ought to enter into a state of cognitive panic, not passive acquiescence.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on If You Demand Magic, Magic Won't Help · 2010-08-16T19:20:13.277Z · LW · GW

I was pondering the philosophy of fantasy stories, and it occurred to me that if there were actually dragons in our world - if you could go down to the zoo, or even to a distant mountain, and meet a fire-breathing dragon - while nobody had ever actually seen a zebra, then our fantasy stories would contain zebras aplenty, while dragons would be unexciting.

You don't seriously think that, do you???

Dragons: fly, breathe fire, ginormous | Zebras: gallop, have stripes

Dragons >> zebras. In no world would zebras feature more prominently in fiction than dragons, regardless of which was real. I get the general point, that nonexistence breeds excitement, but this was a horrible example.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Beyond the Reach of God · 2010-08-11T16:58:09.275Z · LW · GW

P(Christian God exists) = vanishingly small. Does that answer your question, random_guy?

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Excluding the Supernatural · 2010-08-06T21:03:44.632Z · LW · GW

Good post. For a question to receive a specific answer, it must be itself specific. "Does God exist?" is not a specific question and can therefore not receive a specific yes/no/dunno answer. "Does Yahweh exist?" on the other hand, is quite specific and requires the equally specific answer of "No."

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Einstein's Superpowers · 2010-08-06T20:41:29.076Z · LW · GW

The catchiness of the name "Einstein," mostly in the interior rhyme and spondee stress pattern but also in its similarity to "Frankenstein" (1818), cannot be discounted as a factor in his stardom.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on The Level Above Mine · 2010-08-06T20:03:31.162Z · LW · GW

That's a lot of hands.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Words as Mental Paintbrush Handles · 2010-08-05T18:41:43.507Z · LW · GW

My visualization was thus: he was walking away from me, on the right side of the street, while I was on the left side. The street was also at incline, such that he was walking uphill, the sidewalks were rather wide, and the buildings were contiguous. it was afternoon, because the sun was even more to the right of the man (I guess that means he was also walking south), though I couldn't see it. The drugstore door swung out (oddly) around the left hinge, and it was on the left side of the drugstore. There were also cars parked on the street.

Basically, I visualized a random scene from a familiar inner city locale.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Fake Morality · 2010-08-04T16:25:00.578Z · LW · GW

Einstein was a pantheist. He had no belief along the lines of a personal God meddling with the universe.

Quote: "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

Also relevant: "A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

Einstein belongs solidly in the ranks of the freethinkers and not of the religious.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on The Argument from Common Usage · 2010-08-03T18:42:26.745Z · LW · GW

Or, Can an omnipotent being create a black calico cat?

Comment by AndyCossyleon on How to Convince Me That 2 + 2 = 3 · 2010-07-29T18:57:21.484Z · LW · GW

I wish I could vote you up so much more! The distinction between a-convincing-argument and what-it-would-take-to-convince-me is very real and overlooked by almost everyone posting here.

To take my own experience in becoming convinced of atheism, I sometimes like to think I accept atheism for the same reason that I accept evolution--because of the evidence/lack thereof/etcetera. But that is simply not the case. I accept atheism because of a highly personal history of what it took to get me, personally, to stop believing in Christianity, and start believing in something else that, as much as I would like to pat my rational self on the back, has fairly little to do with the arguments and evidence I heard on the matter.

When asking someone why they believe something or are convinced of it, "what is the reason?" and "what is your reason?" are two totally different questions.

Comment by AndyCossyleon on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2010-07-08T21:04:21.860Z · LW · GW